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Eagles: Legacy

Doug Collette By

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Sometimes a gift box is just a gift box and that's certainly true of Eagles' Legacy. Not to disparage its ample resources, this is not quite the definitive history of these commercial kingpins of the Seventies. But then, there's never been one, at least in any format similar to this: Selected Works (Elektra, 2000) comes close, but, in keeping with its title, the thematic collation of music on CDs curtails its comprehensive historical potential, as do the alternately fawning and wry essays in its accompanying booklet.

Walter Tunis' essay for Legacy is even more narrowly circumscribed. But the Kentucky journalist's writing is fully in keeping with the relatively stripped-down content within this twelve-CD, DVD and Blu-ray box: with nothing but acknowledgments for songwriting and production (no musician credits even for the core band in its various incarnations), the fifty-four page hardcover has only the aforementioned scant historical perspective in prose, juxtaposed with photos of the group throughout its career, alongside replications of memorabilia like concert posters. It is a snapshot of a the Eagles frozen in time, at a specifically designated juncture of its history.

As such, however, Legacy is the ideal collection for the modern-day follower of the band, most especially perhaps the one who's just seen the group during its recent tours. This eleventh(!) compilation of the archetypal California rockers features all seven of their studio albums together for the first time—including the Walmart-exclusive Long Road Out of Eden (Eagles Recording Co, 2007), a work as overproduced as The Long Run (Asylum, 1979) is sparse—plus their three live albums along with two concert films.

In addition, almost as an afterthought, there's also a thirty-seven minute plus, ten-track Singles and B-Sides compact disc, most notable for "Hole in the World:" originally written by chief composers Don Henley and Glenn Frey, it is a 9/11 elegy that's sounds equally relevant in these days of mass shootings. These components fit into hardcover booklets which, in turn, fill a slipcase embossed in silver, the sturdiness of which, like those bound inserts, belie the set's borderline budget graphic design: its generic nature is noticeably missing the distinctive iconography of Boyd Elder that graced One of These Nights (Asylum, 1975), among others.

Grammy-winning mastering engineer Bob Ludwig remastered Hell Freezes Over and The Millennium Concert especially for Legacy, which not only upgrades the audio quality at least slightly, but more importantly validates this collection as a direct (and somewhat logical) extension of previous Eagles anthologies, including but not limited to Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (Asylum, 1976); certified in 2018 as the best selling album in the history of such calculations, its prodigious success has only seemed to encourage the cyclical availability of other such collections, most recently The Studio Albums 1972-1979 (Rhino, 2013) and, before that, The Very Best of (Elektra. 2003).

Of course, the 2016 passing of founding member Frey might well have brought an end to the Eagles, at least in its concert iteration. But perhaps no contemporary band this side of Steely Dan so reveled in its success as reviled it, so it's little surprise the vocalist/multi-instrumentalist's survivors decided to carry on. Drummer/guitarist/vocalist/co-founder Henley, guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh and bassist/vocalist Timothy B. Schmidt (who replaced original bassist Randy Meisner in this group as he had previously in the seminal country-rockers Poco) recruited the deceased's son Deacon, along with well-established modern country artist, guitarist/vocalist/composer Vince Gill, for continuance of the increasingly lucrative touring schedule that's evolved since the high-profile reunion of in 1994.

In the interim that encompasses The Millennium Concert and Farewell Tour: Live From Melbourne, the Eagles have consistently enlisted additional musicians in order to remain ever more scrupulously faithful to their recordings, something of a corollary to the approach applied to Eagles Live (Asylum, 1980) through a plethora of overdubs. But such perfectionism extends throughout their career, as so accurately documented on the live portion of Hotel California 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Rhino, 2017) featuring the quintet lineup with the former frontman of the James Gang and the now-departed multi-instrumentalist Don Felder, who joined during the sessions for On The Border (Asylum, 1974).

Yet even if Legacy doesn't purposefully document the stylistic progression of this band from its eponymous debut, arguably the template for contemporary country, it does reveal how much of the group's studio work was markedly transitional. Ironically, the only seamless entries in the Eagles discography are its least popular Desperado (Asylum, 1973) and most popular Hotel California (Asylum, 1976), Nevertheless, this hefty item does proffer an evolution of a different sorts, at least implicitly: the chronology of live content reveals how solo selections of the various members have taken up more and more of the concert setlists over the course of time, a development that, on the one hand dilutes the impact of the group's own material somewhat, but also amplifies the fundamentally crowd-pleasing nature of a contemporary Eagles show: it's more like a revue than a unified performance by a band.

All that said, however, and given the consistently sold-out attendance of the Eagles' regular and extensive tour jaunts in recent years, there's little doubt that presentation resonates with the Eagles' target demographic. As will Legacy no doubt, the admittedly stylish concept and execution of which, limited as it may seem to collectors and completists, should posit this gift box as just the first of a series in a new holiday tradition.

Track Listing: CD/DVD/Blu-ray - Eagles (1972); Desperado (1973); On The Border (1974); One of These Nights (1975); Hotel California (1976); The Long Run (1979); Eagles Live (1980); Hell Freezes Over (1994); Millennium Concert (2000); Long Road Out of Eden (2007); Single and B-Sides: Take It Easy; Get You In The Mood; Outlaw Man; Best Of My Love; One Of These Nights; Lyin’ Eyes; Take It To The Limit; Please Come Home For Christmas; Funky New Year; Hole In The World. DVD: Hell Freezes Over (1994); Blu-ray: Farewell Tour: Live From Melbourne (2005).

Personnel: Don Henley: vocals, drums, percussion; Glenn Frey: vocals, guitars, keyboards; Don Felder: vocals, guitars, slide guitar, pedal steel; Joe Walsh: vocals, guitars, keyboards; Randy Meisner: vocals, bass, guitarone; Timothy B. Schmit: vocals, bass, acoustic guitar; David Sanborn: saxophone: John Corey: piano; Timothy Drury: keyboards, vocals; Jay Oliver: organ, keyboards, piano; J. D. Souther: vocals, acoustic guitar; Jage Jackson: rhythm guitar, percussion; Vince Melamed: electric piano; Joe Vitale: piano, organ, drums, percussion; Stan Lynch: percussion; Paulinho Da Costa: percussion; Gary Grimm: percussion; Brian Matthews: electro-theremin; Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra; Scott Crago: Drums, percussion, backing vocals, sound effects; Bill Armstrong: Trumpet; Al Garth: Saxophone, violin, trumpet, percussion; Phil Kenzie: alto saxophone; Chris Mostert: tenor and alto saxophone; Greg Smith: baritone saxophone; The Monstertones: backing vocals.

Title: Legacy | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Rhino Records

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